“What the hell are you doing still working?…This is the offseason. You don’t have a team. You don’t have a job.”
That might be the kind of question a casual observer would pose to Jon Gruden after learning how much he devours football on a daily basis. ESPN’s highest-paid personality is known to put in countless hours of watching footage, analyzing players, and obsessing over the minutia of a game he hasn’t coached since 2008.
But the above quote doesn’t come from a random ESPN viewer. It comes from Cindy Gruden, his wife. Even she wonders what makes him tick.
Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei recently profiled Gruden to find out exactly what it is that motivates the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach and Monday Night Football analyst. For the uninitiated, some of the details regarding how Gruden prepares are jarring and even downright disturbing.
These days, he is awakened by cellphone. He chooses between alarms set for 4:29, 4:15, 4:04, 4:00, 3:52, 3:47, 3:45, 3:30 and 3:15—”just in case I need to cram a little.” Most days, he is at his desk by 4 a.m., and he stays there, save for a workout, for about 12 hours.
Gruden doesn’t just break down NFL game tape, he breaks down college game tape and even practice tape. All of it is saved in a digital library that contains “a billion” clips and highlights. Gruden, at least, is not so far removed that he doesn’t see the madness in it.
“That’s how maniacal, how sick it is.”
Gruden's audition tape for the next Star Wars… https://t.co/x3wEXnuIZe
— Follow @ESPNNFL (@ESPNMondayNight) March 15, 2016
That obsession, however, does veer into somewhat sycophantic love for the league and sport. When the conversation veers into the ongoing debate over the safety of football, Gruden takes the same tact as Commissioner Roger Goodell and plays the danger-in-everything card, perhaps going a bit too far in his critique.
“You can get hurt playing tackle football,” he says. “You don’t need a medical degree to understand that. There’s danger in cage fighting. There’s danger in a rodeo, NASCAR, jumping out of airplanes. I’ve seen people get skin cancer going to the beach. Awareness is great. After a while, it becomes piling on. Everything is so slanted, it drives me crazy. It’s embarrassing. It’s sickening.”
Hard to say if those who are living with the effects of football-related injuries and concussions would consider the topic “embarrassing” or “sickening” but likely not.
Still, for a base of NFL fans who harken back to old school days and hardnosed love of the X’s and O’s, Gruden is a savior. Clearly, he’s done his homework, even if it might be good for him to take a break every now and again.